Justice and Health Inequalities in Humanitarian Crises: Structured Health Vulnerabilities and Natural Disasters<sup>1</sup>

Ryoa Chung and Matthew R. Hunt

in Health Inequalities and Global Justice

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780748646920
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780748676682 | DOI:
Justice and Health Inequalities in Humanitarian Crises: Structured Health Vulnerabilities and Natural Disasters1

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The ways that individuals and communities are affected by humanitarian crises are the result of a matrix of determinants including various forms of inequality. These features create gradients of vulnerability both within and between populations. We argue that health vulnerabilities that exist in disaster-affected populations are, in part, the results of structural injustices pertaining to social and economic interactions as well as power relations between agents that can be observed at the domestic and international levels. The enterprise of humanitarian assistance does not simply occur against the backdrop of these injustices, it is also inextricably enmeshed in these interactions. At the same time, humanitarian assistance following disaster must prioritize among and respond to current health and other needs of survivors, as well as focusing on rebuilding and reconstruction. We consider which theoretical approach for humanitarian action best accounts for these realities. We propose a conception of structured health vulnerabilities that can guide humanitarian actors as they respond to disaster-affected populations. Our account seeks to foreground the political dimensions of humanitarian assistance and emphasizes the importance of pre-existing vulnerabilities and injustices.

Keywords: disasters; ethics; humanitarian action; justice; vulnerability

Chapter.  6035 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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